Sailing San Francisco

So we tossed the lines and left Vallejo at about 9am Sunday morning. San Francisco definitely has some intimidating winds and tides. Having never sailed here before, I was in for a surprise how the winds rush through the hills and channels in and out of the valleys and around the islands. It seemed like every mile or so had a strong wind blowing from a completely different direction. God forbid you stopped paying attention for a second and all of a sudden the boat gets knocked down out of nowhere!

The tides surprised me most of all! It’s crazy to think about how much water comes in and out of the bay on a daily basis. Considering the many millions of gallons that rush in and out, the speed of the tides are pretty strong. So strong that sailing against them without the wind blowing in your favor is definitely a crappy trek if you plan on getting anywhere in a timely manner. Not to mention where the different tides meet causing choppy whirlpool-like patches all over the place that really throw things off. I would definitely be weary of hopping into the bay without thoroughly studying the wind and tide charts or or not having someone familiar with the conditions on board. I can now understand why they say you can sail anywhere in the world if you can sail the Bay Area.

Feels good to dip the rail of a 60 footer

Sailing on Etosha is wonderful! No matter what the boat was presented with, she handled it with ease. At 60′ in length the boat slices through large waves head on like warm butter and barely moves. With low winds, she heels over at a 30 degree angle and holds her course beautifully! Amazingly, Etosha’s helm does not consist of a wheel but a massive aluminum tiller! The rudder post on this boat is an astonishing 7″ thick! Good luck ever finding an emergency rudder for this boat. The classic spare wheelbarrow handle isn’t going to do the trick here!

Here’s a video tour of Etosha.

So we made our way out from Vallejo towards San Francisco early morning Sunday while the tide was running out and the wind was surprisingly calm. It was a beautiful morning and we were the largest sailboat in the water. Never having sailed here in San Francisco before, I was very interested in everything there was to see! I was an easily identifiable tourist! When we first sailed around the point of Tiburon through Raccoon Straight between Angel Island and I got my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge I was ecstatic! I got the name camera boy after the number of pics I grabbed. However I was determined to get that perfect photo! The name was probably well deserved though.

In my defense, I got my picture.

We sailed out past the Golden Gate Bridge but only about a quarter of a mile before turning back. We were facing 18ft swells and there was much better sailing elsewhere. While sailing back into the bay we heard the unfortunate sound of a blood curdling scream. Quickly looking back to see that a woman had jumped from the bridge. As someone who has such a love for life and that is fueled on the idea that I can do whatever I want with my life, I struggle wrapping my head around the fact that some people reach such a low. I find so much joy in the events that happen in my life, including the negative ones, and I wish it was something that could be easily taught to everyone. But that realization is one that comes in time and I am fortunate enough to have the outlook that I do. As I was sailing on a beautiful yacht, someone else was feeling the need to end their life and I wish I could have shared my experience with them.

The jumper wasn’t a deal breaker for the day, but it was definitely a reality check. But as the wind was blowing, we kept on sailing. We made our way over to treasure island before heading back behind Alcatraz. Alcatraz was definitely another one of those sites that got me excited to be sailing past. Right after avoiding a collision with a tanker we made our way back through raccoon strait and moseyed on over to China Camp where we anchored out for the night. All together, we sailed nearly 100 miles.

While at anchor, we dropped a line in the water to kill some time. With a nice big juicy ghost shrimp on the line, I quickly pulled a nice Shark. Through the pole over a few more times and sure enough, I caught another shark… And another, and another, and another, and another! For all of you whom may be concerned, I didn’t eat any of the sharks. I threw all of them back.


Being a race boat, Etosha, has a very thin, yet long keel. Her keel is 12 feet in length and upon awakening at anchoring we found ourselves in only 8 feet of water! So we were stuck in the mud. We tried to motor out and we tried hoisting the sails to bring the boat to a heel and sail out but we ended up just getting ourselves stuck even more. So 7 hours went by before the tide had finally raised enough to motor out of the shoal.

Due to poor weather conditions, we decided to change the plans up a bit and stick to sailing around the bay. And due to time restraints, we’ll probably only stick to sailing the bay for now. Which still doesn’t limit us really. As far as Hawaii goes, talk has begun for the end of June. More info will be posted on that as time comes. A lot of variables are in play at the moment so nothing for sure can be said just yet but that’s what we’re shooting for. I can for sure say that I will be doing everything in my power to see that the trip happens, however.

Now that I’m up here and have taken the time off for sailing, I plan on getting as much sailing done as possible. I’ll will continue sailing here on Etosha but I’ve already coordinated plans to help a couple, Karina and James, re-rig their new WestSail in Berkley and then sail it to Alameda this coming weekend. Depending on who else I meet, I may be sailing a handful of boats while I’m here. While the plans have changed, the adventures continue. If you happen to be in the Bay Area and you are reading this, shoot me an email! Let’s go sailing!


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